RICHARD FOSTER admits that he considered hanging up his boots this summer after a two-year spell at Partick Thistle ended on a sour note when he was abused by a supporter.

On the final day of the regular Championship season, Ian McCall’s men travelled to Somerset Park knowing that a heavy defeat coupled with a comprehensive Raith Rovers win over Kilmarnock at Stark's Park would see the Kirkcaldy club pip the Jags to the fourth and final play-off spot.

It was a poor performance from Thistle and they found themselves going in at the break trailing 2-0 when emotions spilled over. The visiting fans made their feelings known as they shouted at the players making their way off the park until one supporter crossed a line, according to Foster, provoking the defender.

The 36-year-old had to restrained by his team-mates as he tried to confront the supporter and although he knows his own response wasn’t acceptable, Foster – who remains a free agent and is looking to continue playing in League One or League Two – felt the abuse crossed the threshold of what is acceptable.

“As we walked off we knew we were getting beat and we didn’t know until we got into the dressing room that Raith were winning,” Foster recalled. “We knew the situation that we were in and we weren’t playing well at all. It was my first game back in a while.

“I was coming off the pitch and we were frustrated; everyone was frustrated. We’re all getting pelters from our own fans. If it’s from their fans you think ‘fair enough, that’s what they’re there to do’ but when it’s from your own fans…

“I’m just saying to this guy ‘who is that helping? Who are you helping right now?’. Look, I know we had been rubbish. We’d been crap. We know that. But the way they went on, the level of abuse directed at players – effin’ and ceein’ and all that stuff – and then I just heard that one person, I think he called me a h** c***, and that was it.

“I just thought ‘no, I’m not taking this. This is ridiculous.’ Obviously then I got aggressive and took a few steps towards him. Now, I knew in my head that I was never going to walk all the way over there. For one, it would be one against about fifteen! Not great odds. But I’ve just never been able to do it in my entire career – I’ve never been able to take that level of abuse when I feel it crosses a line.

“See if you walk off a pitch and you hear ‘guys that was terrible, that was crap, we need more, come on’ then you go ‘fair enough, you’re right, I absolutely agree’. But see when you call individual players – and there were a few of us, it wasn’t just me – names and an eff and a cee and all this kind of stuff, that’s so far over the line it’s not true.

Glasgow Times:

“And with the response – initially amongst the Thistle fans it was all ‘Foster needs to be more professional’ but then there were a lot of guys going ‘wait a minute, look at what they’re saying. No wonder he reacted’. If you say that in any other walk of life then you’re never going to get away with it.

“Football is an emotional game, fans get emotional but so do we as players. If you’re talking to someone and you are really p***** off and someone says exactly the wrong thing to you at the exact wrong time, it’s very difficult to go ‘okay, thanks for that’ and move on. You should and it’s been my job for long enough that I know I shouldn’t react but I’m human. We are all human and you react in a human way.

“That actually left a really sour taste in my mouth. Then the season finished and that was one of the reasons I was thinking ‘you know what, I don’t need this, I don’t need that in my life. I’ve dealt with it for long enough and I don’t want that to be part of my life anymore’.

“And for the first couple of weeks I thought I was probably going to retire because I just put myself in those situations. But then that wears off and you realise that getting emotional – like getting emotional with another player on the park – these things happen. You kind of move on and you start missing the dressing room environment.

“Then you see all these players going back for pre-season and you go ‘awk, I kind of miss that’. I’m not missing pre-season but you miss being in that dressing room every day. That kind of soured it towards the end of the season but I am kind of over that now. It’s not put me off football. I’m on 651 games at my last count. Can I get 700? I don’t know. I’d need another 49 games and I don’t think I can contemplate another two seasons.”

After seriously considering his future, Foster feels he still has enough left in the tank for one last dance in Scotland’s lower leagues. The full-back is also keeping an open mind with regards to perhaps coaching one day – along with Brian Graham and Ross Docherty, he coached the Thistle women’s team – but before he gets carried away, he would like to ensure he has the necessary aptitude for it.

“It’s something I have thought long and hard about,” he said. “I thought maybe about getting into coaching and scaling back the football.

“Then after a couple of weeks – once my body had got over the shock of playing a full season – I thought I’d miss it: the dressing rooms, the daily banter. It’s impossible to work alongside someone like Brian Graham and not have a smile on your face.

Glasgow Times:

“I decided to look for opportunities. I knew I would be a relatively tough sell for most managers as I’ll be 37 at the end of the month. So I decided to try and get something sorted that would allow me to play but would also allow me to further my coaching.

“I was doing the women’s team with Brian and Doc, which I enjoyed. And when I signed my deal at the start of last season the manager had said I could jump over and help with the under-18s.

“There was a wee bit of turmoil because [Thistle’s academy director] Scott Allison had left and they were waiting on a new academy director coming in. The times that we thought we were going to train never quite worked out for me.

“I did a few sessions with them but I was doing my media stuff as well and travelling up north to see my son so I couldn’t really give it my full attention. It wasn’t fair on the young players, flitting in and out. I was there some of the time and not there some of the time. It wasn’t fair on them first and foremost because I wasn’t giving them my best and I also found that it wasn’t productive for me because I wasn’t getting to do what I wanted to do in terms of coaching.

“So I stopped doing that after Christmas and just focused on playing for Thistle. There were a few weeks there where we had a real chance of a push for the title and obviously it didn’t materialise. If I get myself back playing, either I’ll look at coaching alongside [my playing role] or coaching elsewhere as well.”

He continued: “I’ve got my A license so the next one would be the Pro license, but it’s quite a big expense to do it.

“I would like to get involved in coaching just now to see if I’m any good at it and if I enjoy it. If I do enjoy it and I feel like I’ve got something to offer then I might look to go further and do my Pro license.

“I think it is about ten grand so to spend that money then in two years’ time to go ‘Actually, I don’t enjoy coaching’ or if I’m not very good at it… it’s a big sum of money, so I would like to find my feet first and then see if it’s worthwhile.

“You only need it in the Premiership if your team are in Europe. If I was coaching, for example, a team in Scotland who were doing really well, you can then apply to do it at the same time. So there are options. But until such time as I feel like I need that, I’ll just sit tight and try and use my A license as best as possible.”

Glasgow Times:

Foster joined Thistle as the club were controversially demoted to League One and it’s fair to say his two years at the Maryhill outfit were eventful. He played an important role as the Jags stormed to the League One title during a dramatic run-in and although the team fell short of their goals last season as the Jags' promotion bid fizzled out, he reflects on his time at Firhill with a sense of pride.

“As a whole it was an enjoyable experience,” he said. “I felt I had a good time there and I had a good relationship with the manager and the other players. In the first season I really struggled to get going early on. The lockdown wasn’t good: that was the longest in 20 years I’d gone without training. So I found that really difficult.

“I felt better after the second break – I felt like I played a lot better. We played a lot better as a team. Zak [Rudden] was scoring, and Tiff [Scott Tiffoney] came in and was fantastic. We went on to win the league. From where we were when we came back – I think we were eight points behind – to then go on and win the league so convincingly in the end, I think it was one of the most enjoyable seasons of my career.

“You want to win the league, we all did. But then it looked like it had slipped away from us. There was a real togetherness about the team in the second half of the season and there was a really good mood about the place.

“We went away to East Fife and snatched a 2-2 draw, and the manager said to us in the dressing room afterwards that it could be a huge, huge point. It turned out that way because it kept that momentum going and we managed to get over the line.

“Last season was difficult and I believe the pitch ruined our attempt at a real push for the title. I also think if we’d finished further up the league we would have had a better chance in the play-offs. People have said our record at home was quite good and it was, but I don’t think you appreciate how energy-sapping that pitch was.

“We went through a spell where we had six games in three weeks and it was tough. You are playing on that, then you’re playing on a hard pitch, then you’re playing on that again, then you’re playing on Astroturf. It’s difficult.

“Granted, in games we could have played better. You can’t fully blame the pitch. In certain games we should be taking our chances and that happens over the course of a season. We gave away stupid penalties – I was one of those guys – and we conceded soft goals where we should have done better. But I think over the piece that fourth was fair, based on how we performed. For a small spell I thought we could make a real push for the title.

Glasgow Times:

“We had two games against Morton, home and away, and that killed it. We missed a penalty against them [at home] and we should have beaten them two or three nil, then we concede that late goal. Then we go to Morton and take an early lead, and we’re kind of cruising after a bit of a ropey start. Then we just never defended well enough. That derailed any chance of a title push.

“And considering we were the promoted side, fourth was a good outcome. We could have done better in both of the Inverness games but I don’t think we had enough to get promoted via the play-offs. It’s very difficult if you’re third or fourth to make it through those six games. You always hope for more but every squad and every player has limitations, and I think third or fourth was about as good as we could have expected.

“Killie had a much bigger squad and a lot of quality. Arbroath started really well and were really organised. They have good players and they just rode that crest of a wave right until the very end – full credit to them.

“It was disappointing in the way it ended but I think it was a relatively good season. I feel I was in decent enough form for most of the season. I struggled a wee bit with an injury but personally and as a team, I thought we did okay.”

Foster has lifted the League Cup with Ross County and is a title winner with Rangers, but he believes that the League One-winning campaign was one of the best of his career.

“I think because I’m a little bit older, I was more able to appreciate it,” he reasoned. “You don’t win league titles often.

“People go ‘it’s only League One’ but as a football player I want to win things. That was the goal when I signed for Thistle and that was the manager’s goal.

“We felt like the chance was gone and that we would have to go up through the play-offs, and then you would win a game and they would drop points.

“There was a real feeling that we could still do it and that just built and built and built. That Falkirk game – we had played on the Tuesday night and Scott Tiffoney scored a huge goal for us in the 2-2 draw at Cove late on – then we were playing Falkirk at home.

“The weird thing about that game is that if Falkirk had won the game, they would have been favourites to win the league. We just went out and it was a bit of a nervy start but after that we just blew them away. Zak, Brian and Tiff were on fire and they just couldn’t handle us.

“It was probably summed up best by Sneds [goakeeper Jamie Sneddon] when we scored the fourth or the fifth and he ran the length of the pitch to join in the celebrations.

“I’ve been in football long enough to know that at 3-0 the game isn’t dead but when we got to five, you get that feeling where you just know this is it, we’ve won it. I know too well that success like that doesn’t come around too often.

“Maybe because it is looking like it will probably be my last success as a player, it was one of the best of my career and I enjoyed it the most. It was just a fantastic experience.”

Glasgow Times:

Foster is certainly aware of his own shortcomings. He knew that another season in Scotland’s second tier with Thistle was probably beyond him but he harbour no ill will towards the club or the manager - far from it.

He explained: “I had a good relationship with the manager and I think he knew the way I was feeling towards the end of the season. When I went to speak to him he was great. He needed to freshen up the squad; he needed younger players. The Championship is a tough, tough league. I kind of knew myself that I didn’t have enough in the tank to do another Championship season and I think he knew that as well.

“I felt like I gave everything I’ve got. I’m a 100 per center – if you ask me to play, I’ll give you everything I’ve got. Sometimes it’s enough and sometimes it’s not. I think he knew that. He was great for me during my time at the club, the whole coaching staff were. [Neil] Scally and Archie [Alan Archibald] were brilliant as well. They’re a really good bunch.

“I don’t know what the new guys are like but the core of the dressing room is still there – you’ve got Doc, Banzo [Stuart Bannigan], big Brian – so I know it’s a good dressing room. I wish Thistle every success this year. It’s going to be another tough, tough season but I hope they are successful. I really enjoyed my time at the club.

“It’s a good club. Gerry Britton can drive you mad at times but he’s a good guy. He tries to do things properly and the club try to do things properly. I know there has been some stuff going on behind the scenes with takeovers and fans all that kind of stuff – which I genuinely know nothing about so I can’t even comment – but by and large my time at the club was very, very enjoyable.”

Glasgow Times:

Foster remains unattached to any club but he is hopeful of finding a new employer in time for the new season beginning at the end of the month. Between his coaching aspirations, media work and trying to keep himself in shape, there is plenty to keep him going, yet he still fancies one last crack at playing before hanging up his boots – most likely, he admits, in League One or League Two.

“Yeah, I think I’ll be looking there,” he added. “At the moment I’m assessing all my options. I am trying to get myself fit, which is disgusting! But you realise that you can’t just run on a treadmill, you need to get back playing football and you need to do sessions. I find running on the treadmill mind-numbing, I hate it, but you need to do it.

“I can remember pre-seasons where you were running until you were sick but the older I’ve got – this is one of the benefits of sports science – you now train in sprints and most things are four-minute exercises. It suits me a lot better. I don’t like the long-distance stuff.

“I like to keep myself busy. I’ve been a football player for 21 years now and you do have a lot of spare time. You have a lot of afternoons where you don’t really do anything.

“I like to try and do things to occupy myself. When you’ve got all that spare time, I need to use it or I just end up watching Netflix or playing my computer, so I try to be more productive than that and use my time wisely. That could be preparing a session in the evening time or doing my media stuff.

“The media stuff has been great because I get to watch loads of Scottish football, which I enjoy. Once I get a bit older and retire I’ll chill out and not do as much but right now I’m young enough and eager enough to work as much as possible.”